Written by: Barbara Bry and Neil Senturia
I Did It released to great reviews on September 13, 2022, which details the story of Gina Champion-Cain, the San Diego woman who was behind the largest woman-led Ponzi scheme in US history of over $350 million dollars.
In San Diego, Gina Champion- Cain was considered a local icon. Many saw her as a beautiful and charismatic woman who made it appear she had succeeded in a male-dominated good old boys club. Her vast empire included her restaurants, real estate, and retail. Cain was even a guest economics commentator for the San Diego Union-Tribune; she also served on prestigious corporate and nonprofit boards. At one point in her career, she even pondered entering the political limelight and make a run for Mayor. One would wonder how a woman the mastermind behind a massive Ponzi scheme would open herself up to political scrutiny?
Gina’s exploits included a multitude of participants such as hedge funds, banks, egomaniacs, and small-time crooks, all fueled by greed, stupidity, and a keen desire to look the other way. Even when they were looking in the right direction, all of these people and entities saw nothing. Gina was the Penn and Teller of misdirection, acting with caring behavior to other people (while bilking her investors), creating philanthropic endeavors and single-mindedly pursuing her dream of building an empire, taking it public, and cashing out all the investors.
The City of San Diego even honored her with a Gina Champion-Cain Day. But her empire was a house of cards funded with money from massive financial fraud. It was going to come to an end, her lies, her lavish lifestyle and the life she knew.
On August 2019, Champion- Cain’s seven-year program of selling phony liquor license loans came to an end when the SEC, the US Attorney’s Office, and the FBI filed suit and shut it down.
On March 31, 2021, Gina Champion -Cain plead guilty and was sentenced when she admitted that she swindled more than $350 million from investors promising to use their money to make loans to business owners who were attempting to acquire California liquor licenses. Her sentence will leave her in prison until January 20, 2034, she will be 68 years old. Her husband has filed for divorce.
The authors did a Q and A to share more detailed information:
Q: What prompted you to write this book?
A: We thought it would be interesting for readers to understand the inner workings of a Ponzi scheme and the reasons that motivated the mastermind. The book is a cautionary tale for all of us to do our due diligence when making an investment. At various levels, it is a story of greed, not just of the promoter, but also of the investors. It is also a story about a woman in a man’s world. Finally, it is the moment in every person’s life when the reality of your circumstances is in conflict with the public perception of them.
Q: Were there any revelations you learned while interviewing Gina Champion- Cain?
A: It was extraordinary that the Ponzi scheme lasted so wrong, Gina was a master at making people happy and feeling special even though there were warning signs along the way. Gina’s first sentence to Neil was, “I know a Ponzi scheme can never work.” Gina was a conflicted woman who had the power to charm the world, and at the same time was also clearly aware that the liquor license program was a full-on fraud.
Q: Can you share any new ‘ updates’ to the story?
A: It looks like the investors will get over 90% of their money back from Chicago Title which held the “escrows” for the phony liquor licenses. So far, Chicago Title has paid out over $135 million. There are also claw backs from the promoters and investors who profited. It is called “MIMO,” money in, money out. It is unbelievable, and maybe never in history, for the investors in a Ponzi scheme to get that much money back. The final accounting is almost done, but the bottom is that the total loss was $183 million, and it appears that about $179 million is coming back to the investors.
Q: Do you communicate with Gina Champion- Cain in prison?
A: Yes, we communicate with Gina by letter and email.
You can learn more about this fascinating book by visiting: https://www.ididit-book.com/